CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - With $14,000 in donations and climbing, a pitbull works to pay it forward.
His name is Mac and his owner, Rochelle Steffen, said his secret is simple: He is Pitbull Strong. But in this case, the perception is much different than the stigma the breed is usually associated with.
"He's nothing other than good," Steffen said. "He should be dead."
From day one Mac found himself challenged to survive. He was malnourished, and it was soon discovered he had a genetic leg disorder. But against all odds he's thriving and giving back.
"He's made a tremendous impact," Steffen said. "He's not that idea of a mean pitbull at all."
Mac fell into Steffen's hands after he was rescued by someone who believed he was being used as bait in a fighting ring.
"I was handed him and that was it," Steffen said.
Mac just went through his fifth surgery on his legs. The procedures cost thousands and Steffen said she had to find a way to pay.
"We came up with the fact he's a strong dog and he makes me strong," Steffen said. "We came up with the 'I am pitbull strong' slogan and it just snowballed."
She launched a facebook page 'Mac the pitbull' and started selling shirts.
"We sold a ton that summer," Steffen said.
In no time, the surgeries were paid for but the money kept coming in. From there Steffen vowed to pay it forward by giving money away to help other animals.
"He is the instrument," Steffen said. "He has on his own saved dozens of dogs and I think dozens of lives."
The page became a launching pad to connect other animals in need with loving owners. That is what brought Gracie and Ann Click together. Click saw a video of Gracie just after she was rescued. Also a pitbull, she was so scared and traumatized she stands paralyzed in the video for over a minute.
"I felt instantly connected," said Click of Cape Girardeau. "It just broke my heart."
After just a few weeks of rehabilitation in a loving environment, Click said Gracie became and remains a happy, gentle, and loving dog.
"I can't imagine life without her," Click said. "She brings so much joy. Mac has done so much to change the perception of this breed that is so good and so gentle."
Meanwhile, Mac serves as a mascot to bring in huge donations to shelters around the country and here at home.
"Mac and his family and his mom have that 'it' factor," said Charlotte Craig of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.
She said Mac often brings the dogs there cheeseburgers as a treat, but in an even greater fashion gives a great name for adopted animals. She said he's also made huge leaps to help change hearts about animals with reputations like pitbulls.
"Pitbulls are a sweet and gentle animals and Mac is the epitome of a pitbull," Craig said. "Helen Keller's dog was a pitbull. The Little Rascal's dog was a pitbull. They were originally raised to be 'nanny' dogs. They unfortunately sometimes fall into the wrong hands and because they are a muscular breed get a bad rap."
His foundation has even touched people.
Miles away in Alabama, 13-year-old Josephine Knight said after multiple heart surgeries, reading Mac's posts gives her the will to live.
"I just know if he can get through it," Knight said. "You have to be strong whatever it is. I have pitbulls and I love them. They are sweet wonderful dogs. You have to be pitbull strong like Mac!"
Now, as more than 17,000 followers around the globe read his posts daily, they say he's igniting a contagious movement that no matter who, what, or where you are in life you can live pitbull strong.
"He has given away $14,000 in our first year and that to me is super rock star status," Steffen said. "That's our whole goal is to pay it forward."
Mac plans to keep on spreading the wealth to help others overcome obstacles.
Rochelle Steffen is our own Heartland News photographer. Here at KFVS, we are very proud of her and Mac and the work they've done helping others.
You can click here to visit Mac's Facebook page.